The Northern Ireland Executive is the devolved government of Northern Ireland, an administrative branch of the legislature Northern Ireland Assembly. It is answerable to the Assembly and was established according to the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which followed the Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement). The executive is referred to in the legislation as the Executive Committee of the Assembly and is an example of a consociationalist government.
The Northern Ireland Executive consists of the First Minister and deputy First Minister and various ministers with individual portfolios and remits. The main Assembly parties appoint most ministers in the executive, except for the Minister of Justice who is elected by a cross-community vote. It is one of three devolved governments in the United Kingdom, the others being the Scottish and Welsh Governments.
In January 2017, the deputy First Minister resigned as a result of the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal and the Northern Ireland Executive subsequently collapsed. As of June 2019, the Executive is still vacant.
|Northern Ireland Executive|
Logo of the Northern Ireland Executive
|Formed||2 December 1999|
|Headquarters||Stormont Castle, Stormont Estate, Belfast, BT4 3TT|
|Employees||27,712 (September 2011)|
|Annual budget||£10,329.1 million (current)|
£1,191.3 million (capital) for 2011–12
At the same time, various departments were renamed as follows:
The following departments were dissolved:
In contrast with Westminster system cabinets, which generally need only be backed by a majority of legislators, ministerial positions in the Northern Ireland Executive are allocated to parties with significant representation in the Assembly. With the exception of justice, the number of ministries to which each party is entitled is determined by the D'Hondt system.
In effect, major parties cannot be excluded from participation in government and power-sharing is enforced by the system. The form of government is therefore known as mandatory coalition as opposed to voluntary coalition where parties negotiate an agreement to share power. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and some Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) members favour a move towards voluntary coalition in the longer term but this is currently opposed by Sinn Féin.
The Executive cannot function if either of the two largest parties refuse to take part, as these parties are allocated the First Minister and deputy First Minister positions. However, other parties are not required to enter the Executive even if they are entitled to do so; instead, they can choose to go into opposition if they wish. There were some calls for the SDLP and the UUP to enter opposition after the 2007 Assembly elections, but ultimately the two parties chose to take the seats in the Executive to which they were entitled.
In 2010, an exception to the D'Hondt system for allocating the number of ministerial portfolios was made under the Hillsborough Castle Agreement to allow the cross-community Alliance Party of Northern Ireland to hold the politically contentious policing and justice brief when most of those powers were devolved to the Assembly. Devolution took place on 12 April 2010.
Under D'Hondt, the SDLP would have been entitled to the extra ministerial seat on the revised Executive created by the devolution of policing and justice. Accordingly, both the UUP and SDLP protested that Alliance was not entitled, under the rules of the Good Friday Agreement, to fill the portfolio and refused to support this move. However, Alliance leader David Ford was elected Minister with the support of the DUP and Sinn Féin.
On 26 August 2015, the UUP announced it would withdraw from the Executive and form an opposition after all, in response to the assassination of Kevin McGuigan.
On 25 May 2016 a new executive was announced (three weeks after assembly election). For the first time in the assembly's history, parties that were entitled to ministries (i.e. UUP, SDLP and Alliance) chose instead to go into opposition following a recent bill providing parties with this choice. This meant that the executive was formed only by the two major parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, and thus giving them more seats in the Executive (with the exception of the Department of Justice which was given to an Independent Unionist MLA, Claire Sugden, due to this appointment needing cross-community support).
The Executive is co-chaired by the First Minister and deputy First Minister. Its official functions are:
The Ministerial Code allows any three ministers to request a cross-community vote. The quorum for voting is seven ministers. At present, the Executive consists of six unionist, five nationalist and two 'other' (Alliance Party) ministers.
The current system of devolution has succeeded long periods of direct rule (1974–1999 and 2002–2007), when the Northern Ireland Civil Service had a considerable influence on government policy. The legislation which established new departments in 1999 affirmed that "the functions of a department shall at all times be exercised subject to the direction and control of the Minister". Ministerial powers can be conferred by an Act of the Assembly and ministers can also exercise executive powers which are vested in the Crown.
Ministers are also subject to several limitations, including the European Convention on Human Rights, European Union law, other international obligations of the UK, a requirement not to discriminate on religious or political grounds, and having no power over reserved and excepted matters (which are held by the United Kingdom Government).
Ministerial decisions can be challenged by a petition of 30 Northern Ireland Assembly members. This action can be taken for alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code and on "matters of public importance". The Speaker of the Assembly must consult political party leaders in the Assembly (who are often also ministers) before deciding whether the subject is a matter of public importance. Successful petitions will then be considered by the Executive.
The number of ministers and their responsibilities can be changed when a department is being established or dissolved. The proposal must be made by the First Minister and the deputy First Minister and be carried by a cross-community vote in the Assembly. The number of departments was initially limited to 10 but this increased to 11 upon the devolution of justice.
The following programmes for government have been published to date:
The following budgets have been published to date:
Under the St Andrews Agreement, the Executive is obliged to adopt strategies on the following policy matters:
The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister published a child poverty strategy in March 2011. The wider anti-poverty strategy was carried over from direct rule in November 2006. As of November 2011, neither an Irish language strategy nor an Ulster Scots strategy had been adopted. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure states that a Strategy for Indigenous or Regional Minority Languages "will be presented to the Executive in due course".
The original Northern Ireland Executive was established on 1 January 1974, following the Sunningdale Agreement. It comprised a voluntary coalition between the Ulster Unionist Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party and Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, with the UUP's Brian Faulkner in the position of Chief Executive. It was short-lived, collapsing on 28 May 1974 due to the Ulster Workers' Council strike, and the Troubles continued in the absence of a political settlement.
|Historical composition of the Northern Ireland Executive|
|Executive (Assembly)||Date||Event||Mandatory coalition:
|D'Hondt method allocation||Vacant|
|FM & j.m.||dFM & j.m.|
|UUP (U)||SDLP (N)||DUP (U)||SF (N)||Alli. (O)|
|1st E. (1st A.)||1 July 1998||formation||UUP||SDLP||10||-||3||3||2||2||0||0|
|14 October 2002||dissolution||10||10|
|2nd E. (3rd A.)||8 May 2007||formation||DUP||SF||10||-||2||1||4||3||0||0|
|12 April 2010||devolution||"||"||11||Alliance||2||1||4||3||0||0|
|11 May 2011||dissolution||11||11|
|3rd E. (4th A.)||16 May 2011||formation||DUP||SF||11||Alliance||1||1||4||3||1||0|
|1 September 2015||resignation||"||"||11||"||R||1||4||3||1||1|
|20 October 2015||reallocation||"||"||11||"||R||1||5||3||1||0|
|16 May 2016||dissolution||11||11|
|4th E. (5th A.)||26 May 2016||formation||DUP||SF||8||Ind. (U)||R||R||4||3||0||0|
|16 January 2017||dissolution||8||8|
|5th E. (TBD)||TBD||formation||8||8|
|FM, dFM = First and deputy First Minister; j.m. = junior minister; R = resigned or refused posts entitled to under the D'Hondt method.|
The current Executive was provided for in the Belfast Agreement, signed on 10 April 1998. Designates for First Minister and Deputy First Minister were appointed on 1 July 1998 by the UUP and SDLP, respectively. A full Executive was nominated on 29 November 1999 and took office on 2 December 1999, comprising the UUP, SDLP, Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin. Devolution was suspended for four periods, during which the departments came under the responsibility of direct rule ministers from the Northern Ireland Office:
The 2002–2007 suspension followed the refusal of the Ulster Unionist Party to share power with Sinn Féin after a high-profile Police Service of Northern Ireland investigation into an alleged Provisional Irish Republican Army spy ring.
Since 8 May 2007, devolution had operated without interruption. The second Executive formed in 2007 was led by the DUP and Sinn Féin, with the UUP and SDLP also securing ministerial roles.
However, the Executive did not meet between 19 June 2008 and 20 November 2008 due to a boycott by Sinn Féin. This took place during a dispute between the DUP and Sinn Féin over the devolution of policing and justice powers. Policing and justice powers were devolved on 12 April 2010, with the new Minister of Justice won by Alliance in a cross-community vote.
Following the Northern Ireland Assembly election held on 5 May 2011, a third Executive was formed on 16 May 2011 with the same five parties represented. Alliance for the first time gained administration of a department under the D'Hondt system, in addition to the Department of Justice.
Peter Robinson of the DUP and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin were nominated by their parties and appointed as First Minister and deputy First Minister on 12 May 2011. Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister opposed the joint appointment. On 16 May 2011, 10 other Executive ministers (with the exception of the Minister of Justice) and two junior ministers were appointed by their political parties. The Minister of Justice was then elected by the Assembly via a cross-community vote.
On 26 August 2015, the UUP withdrew from the Executive in protest over the alleged involvement of members of the Provisional IRA in the murder of Kevin McGuigan Sr. Danny Kennedy MLA's position as Minister for Regional Development was later taken over by the DUP, thereby leaving four Northern Irish parties in the power sharing agreement. On 10 September 2015 Peter Robinson stepped down as First Minister, although he did not officially resign. Arlene Foster took over as acting First Minister. Robinson subsequently resumed his duties as First Minister again on 20 October 2015.
Following the signing of the Fresh Start Agreement, Peter Robinson announced his intention to stand down as leader of the DUP and First Minister of Northern Ireland. He subsequently resigned as DUP leader on 18 December 2015, being succeeded by Arlene Foster. Foster then took office as First Minister on 11 January 2016.
The fourth Executive was formed following the May 2016 election. The SDLP, UUP and Alliance Party left the Executive and formed the Official Opposition for the first time. Ministerial positions were proportionally allocated between the DUP and Sinn Féin, with independent unionist Claire Sugden serving as Minister of Justice. The government collapsed on 16 January 2017, after Martin McGuinness resigned in protest over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal. His resignation sparked a snap election as Sinn Féin refused to re-nominate a deputy First Minister.
Since 2 March 2017, the Northern Ireland Executive cannot be formed due to the aftermath of the 2017 election.
|First Minister||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|deputy First Minister||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|Communities||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|Economy||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|Education||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|Finance||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|Health||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|Infrastructure||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|Justice||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|Also attending Executive meetings|
|Junior Minister (assisting the First Minister)||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
|Junior Minister (assisting the deputy First Minister)||Vacant (since January 2017)||Vacant|
Ministers are assisted by backbench Assembly private secretaries (equivalent to parliamentary private secretaries). The non-political Attorney General for Northern Ireland is the chief legal advisor to the Executive, appointed by the First Minister and deputy First Minister, and may also attend Executive meetings.
Bríd Rodgers (born Bríd Stratford 20 February 1935) in Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland, is an Irish nationalist former politician.
Although born and brought up in a Gaeltacht area in the west of County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, she was politically active in Northern Ireland, where she was Deputy-Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Member of the Legislative Assembly for Upper Bann.Carál Ní Chuilín
Carál Ní Chuilín MLA ([kaˈɾˠaːl̪ˠ nʲiː ˈxɪlʲiːnʲ]; born Caroline Cullen, 18 December 1964) is an Irish Sinn Féin politician and former Provisional IRA member. She has been a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Belfast North since 2007 and served in the Northern Ireland Executive as Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure until 2016.Department for Communities
The Department for Communities is a devolved Northern Ireland government department in the Northern Ireland Executive. The minister with overall responsibility for the department is the Minister for Communities. The department was previously created in May 2016 following the Fresh Start Agreement and the dissolution of several departments, such as the Department for Social Development, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Department for Employment and Learning from which several functions have amalgamated.Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is a government department in the Northern Ireland Executive, the devolved administration for Northern Ireland. The minister with overall responsibility for the department is the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. The department was called the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development between 1999 and 2016 and was previously known as the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland or the Ministry of Agriculture. The department's Permanent Secretary is Noel Lavery.Department of Education (Northern Ireland)
The Department of Education (DENI) (Irish: An Roinn Oideachais; Ulster-Scots: Männystrie o Lear) is a devolved Northern Irish government department in the Northern Ireland Executive. The minister with overall responsibility for the department is the Minister of Education.Executive Office (Northern Ireland)
The Executive Office is a devolved Northern Ireland government department in the Northern Ireland Executive with overall responsibility for the running of the Executive. The Ministers with overall responsibility for the department are the First Minister and deputy First Minister.
The department was originally known as the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, with the same capitalisation used in the department's logo. Following a change in policy in 2007 (see First Minister and deputy First Minister), the word "deputy" was then spelt with a lower-case d, but the older version of the name is retained in the logo. In May 2016, the department was renamed the Executive Office as a result of the Fresh Start Agreement.Executive of the 1974 Northern Ireland Assembly
A power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive was formed following the Northern Ireland Assembly elections of 1973. The executive served as the devolved government of Northern Ireland from 1 January 1974 until its collapse on 28 May 1974.Executive of the 5th Northern Ireland Assembly
The Fourth Executive was, under the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, a power-sharing coalition.
Following the 6 May 2016 elections to the fifth Northern Ireland Assembly, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin remained the two largest parties in the Assembly.
Notably for the first time in the assembly's history, parties entitled to seats on the executive could instead opt to go into formal opposition. The UUP, SDLP and Alliance all took up this option, leaving the DUP and Sinn Féin to form a government.
The 4th Northern Ireland Executive was formed on 25 May 2016. It lasted less than a year, and collapsed on 16 January 2017 following the resignation of deputy First Minister McGuinness in protest at the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
The First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland (Irish: Céad Aire agus an Leas-Chéad Aire Thuaisceart Éireann, Ulster-Scots: Furst Männystèr an Deputy Furst Männystèr o Norlin Airlann) are the joint heads of the Northern Ireland Executive and have overall responsibility for the running of the Executive Office.
The two positions have the same governmental power, resulting in a duumvirate; despite the name, the deputy First Minister is not subordinate to the First Minister. Created under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, both were initially nominated and appointed by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly on a joint ticket by a cross-community vote, using consociational principles. That process was changed following the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, meaning that the First Minister and deputy First Minister are now nominated separately by the largest parties in each of the two largest community designations in the assembly.List of Northern Ireland ministers, government departments and executive agencies
A list of Northern Ireland government departments, their agencies and their ministers and related organisations.
The devolved government of Northern Ireland (the Northern Ireland Executive) is responsible for most public services in the region but some services are also provided by the United Kingdom Government and cross-border bodies under the North/South Ministerial Council. Public bodies take several forms with some reporting directly to their department (agencies) and others operating having more independence as they advise government (non-departmental public bodies).Below the regional tier of public bodies, public services are also provided by 11 local authorities, one educational authority and five health and social care trusts. Others are accountable directly to the Northern Ireland Assembly or to external organisations, like the European Union.Martina Anderson
Martina Anderson (born 16 April 1962) is an Irish politician from Northern Ireland who is a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) representing Northern Ireland for Sinn Féin. She became involved in the Irish republican movement in the late 1970s and is a former volunteer of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). In June 1986, she was convicted of conspiring to cause explosions in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison. She was released 13 years later as a condition of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequently became involved in politics for Sinn Féin. She was a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland from 2007 to 2012, representing Foyle. She served in the Northern Ireland Executive as a Junior Minister at the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister from 2011 to 2012. In 2012, she became a Member of the European Parliament, and she was reelected in 2014 and in 2019.Michelle Gildernew
Michelle Gildernew (born 28 March 1970) is an Irish Sinn Féin politician from County Tyrone. She has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Fermanagh and South Tyrone since June 2017.
Gildernew is a former Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Northern Ireland Executive. She was the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone from 2001 to 2015, and was a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA) for the Assembly constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone from June 1998 to July 2012. She was re-elected to the Assembly in 2016 and 2017; and in 2017 reclaimed her seat in Parliament from Tom Elliott of the Ulster Unionist Party.
Gildernew is Sinn Féin's health spokesperson and has been a member of the party's Ard Chomhairle (National Executive). In the 2007–11 Assembly, she served as Vice Chair of the Committee of Social Development and was a member of the Committee of the Centre as well as of other statutory and ad-hoc committees.Michelle McIlveen
Michelle McIlveen, MLA (born 21 January 1971) is a politician from Northern Ireland. She was elected in 2007 to the Northern Ireland Assembly as a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) member for Strangford. She served as the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs from 2016 until the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive in January 2017.
She is the DUP spokesperson on children and young people. She is also a former councillor on Ards Borough Council, to which she was first elected in 2005. She served as the Junior Minister in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. On 1 September 2015, Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) minister Danny Kennedy resigned from the Department for Regional Development after his party's decision to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Executive (due to allegations of the Provisional IRA's continued existence by Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable George Hamilton).Under Northern Ireland Assembly rules, when a Department Minister resigns, their party has seven working days to replace the minister or the position is given to another party under the D'Hondt method. This then fell to the DUP, who undertook a cycle of ministerial resignations/appointments/resignations to avoid losing their ministries to other parties like the UUP during the period of time when claims of IRA activity were being made and investigated. The position of Minister for Regional Development lay vacant until 28 September 2015. McIlveen was appointed as minister, with Emma Pengelly replacing her as Junior Minister.Michelle O'Neill
Michelle Mary O'Neill (née Doris; born 10 January 1977) is an Irish politician who has served as Vice President of Sinn Féin since February 2018, and Leader of Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Assembly since January 2017. She has been a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Mid Ulster since 2007. In the Northern Ireland Executive, she previously served as Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development from 2011 to 2016 and Minister of Health from 2016 to 2017.Northern Ireland Assembly (1973)
The Northern Ireland Assembly was a legislative assembly set up by the Government of the United Kingdom on 3 May 1973 to restore devolved government to Northern Ireland with the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive made up of unionists and nationalists. It was abolished by the Northern Ireland Act 1974.
Elections were held on 28 June 1973. The Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, which received the Royal Assent on 18 July 1973, abolished the suspended Parliament of Northern Ireland and the post of Governor and made provision for a devolved administration consisting of an Executive chosen by the Assembly.
108 members were elected by Single Transferable Vote from Northern Ireland's 18 Westminster constituencies, with 5 to 8 seats for each depending on its population.
The Assembly met for the first time on 31 July 1973. Following the Sunningdale Agreement, a power-sharing Executive was established from 1 January 1974. After opposition from within the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Ulster Workers' Council strike, the Executive and Assembly collapsed on 28 May 1974 when Brian Faulkner resigned as Chief Executive.Northern Ireland Civil Service
The Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS; Irish: Státseirbhís Thuaisceart Éireann; Ulster-Scots: Norlin Airlann Cïvil Sarvice) is the permanent bureaucracy of employees that supports the Northern Ireland Executive, the devolved government of Northern Ireland.
The NICS is one of three civil services in the United Kingdom, the others being the Home Civil Service and HM Diplomatic Service. The heads of these services are members of the Permanent Secretaries Management Group.Northern Ireland Environment Agency
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is an executive agency within the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). It is responsible for conservation of Northern Ireland's environment and natural heritage.
Originally part of the Department of the Environment (DOENI), the agency was called the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) until 1 July 2008, and also had responsibility for the historic environment. On 16 May 2016 the DOENI was dissolved and NIEA became part of DAERA. At the same time, the historic environment functions of NIEA were transferred to the Department for Communities.
NIEA is responsible for a range of protected areas in Northern Ireland, including eight areas of outstanding natural beauty, 47 national nature reserves, 43 special areas of conservation, and 10 special protection areas.Northern Ireland Screen
Northern Ireland Screen (Irish: Scáileáin Thuaisceart Éireann) is the national screen agency for Northern Ireland. The agency's purpose is to promote the development of a sustainable film, animation and television production industry.Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels
The Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels is part of the Executive Office and is the focus of Northern Ireland's relations with the institutions of the European Union.
The Office of the Northern Ireland Executive, operates under the umbrella of the UK Permanent Representation to the European Union, as do the Brussels offices of the Scottish Government and Welsh Government.
Northern Ireland Executive
Headquarters: Stormont Castle
|Prime Ministers (1921–1972)|
|Chief Executive and|
deputy-Chief Executive (1974)
|First Ministers and|
deputy First Ministers (1998–present)
|Her Majesty's Government|
|Northern Ireland Executive|
Heads of governments of British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies
|Representatives of states|
Government in Europe
|States with limited|
Devolution in the United Kingdom
|Heads of devolved governments|
|Organisations and laws of the|
legislatures and governments
of the UK and the devolved areas
1. Rejected referendums are italicised. The others were fully or partially approved.
2. There is no law-making body for any regionally devolved area.
3. Administrations of regionally devolved areas are omitted.